Hickory is known as one of the strongest and hardest wood species native to North America. But how well does this hardy wood perform when used for lumber?
This article will examine the pros and cons of using hickory boards and timbers.
- Hickory is extremely strong and durable, making it suitable for high-stress applications like structural framing and supporting weight.
- It has good dimensional stability, resisting warping and distortion over time better than many woods.
- Hickory lumber has an attractive appearance, with reddish-brown heartwood and a range of grain patterns.
- The hardness and density of hickory make it difficult to work. Sharp tools and extra effort are required to saw and plane it.
- Hickory is prone to splitting during cutting and when installing fasteners, so pre-drilling is recommended.
- It's not the best choice for detailed woodworking due to the challenge of shaping and carving it.
- With patience and sharp blades, hickory's strength makes it excellent for simpler furniture and structural uses where durability is key.
Strength and Durability
One of the primary advantages of hickory as a lumber choice is its exceptional strength. With a Janka hardness rating of 1820 lbf, hickory is even tougher than oak or maple.
This makes it highly resistant to impacts, compression, and shock forces. Hickory lumber can withstand heavy use in high-stress applications.
It is suitable for structural framing, supporting weight, and anywhere resilience is needed.
In addition to strength, hickory lumber offers good dimensional stability as it ages.
It resists warping and distortion over time better than many woods that shrink and twist as they dry out.
Furniture and other projects made from hickory lumber will tend to hold their structural integrity well under normal indoor conditions without major wood movement issues.
Hickory lumber displays a range of grain patterns from straight to wavy that can produce visually appealing surfaces when finished.
Its heartwood has a reddish-brown hue with occasional streaks of dark brown. This warm, rustic appearance works well for many furniture and cabinetry pieces.
The contrast between heartwood and sapwood is also attractive.
Difficult to Work
Being extremely hard and dense does pose challenges when using hickory as lumber. It requires sharp cutting edges and plenty of muscle power to saw and plane.
Hickory has a tendency to tear out around knots and along the grain if blades become at all dull.
Keeping tools freshly sharpened is a must, which slows down the woodworking process.
Prone to Splitting
The density of hickory can also make it prone to splitting as boards are cut or fasteners are installed, particularly if nails or screws are used near the edges or ends.
Pre-boring holes and using extra care when measuring and cutting are recommended to minimize splitting.
Gluing boards together rather than just nailing/screwing provides better results.